Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. That may surprise those of you who automatically connect hearing loss with growing old or noise trauma. Almost 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were under the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss probably impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by several diseases besides diabetes. Aging is a significant aspect both in sickness and hearing loss but what is the connection between these disorders and ear health? Consider some conditions that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people who have diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. People with prediabetes, a condition that indicates they could develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

While researchers don’t have a definitive answer as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is feasible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, commonly due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing in part or in full if they develop this condition. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in the American youth.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the delicate nerves which permit the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no means to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Ailments that affect the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these common diseases:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral artery disease

Typically, cardiovascular diseases tend to be linked to age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. When there is a change in blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and damage to the inner ear then leads to loss of hearing.

Chronic Kidney Disease

A 2012 study published in The Laryngoscope found that people have an increased risk of losing their hearing if they have this condition. A separate study found that chance to be as high as 43 percent. It is feasible that this connection is a coincidence, though. There are lots of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions connected with high blood pressure.

Toxins that build up in the blood as a result of kidney failure could also be to blame, theoretically. The connection that the nerves have with the brain might be closed off because of damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia is a two-way street. A person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive impairment. Dementia occurs due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. Trouble hearing can hasten that process.

The other side of the coin is true, also. A person who has dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as injury to the brain increases.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing when they’re very young. The decrease in hearing may be only in one ear or it could affect both ears. The reason that this happens is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Signals are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The good thing is mumps is pretty scarce nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone will suffer from loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

For most people, the occasional ear infection is not very risky since treatment gets rid of it. For some, however, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny pieces that are needed for hearing such as the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This kind of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough force, so no signals are sent to the brain. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the illnesses that can lead to hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep habits will go a long way to protecting your ear health throughout your life. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.

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